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April 18, 2021

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva ~ a Review

by MK French

A Beautiful Story


Jolina is so fed up with being bullied by Claudine that she uses her grandfather's arbularyo magic to brew a love potion to soften Claudine's attitude. It works so well that Claudine now wants to be Jolina's best friend and do whatever she asks. However, magic like this comes with a cost...

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Sugar and Spite
April 2021; Scholastic Press; 978-1338630923
audio, ebook, print (208 pages); middle grades
We begin right off the bat with Jolina explaining accidental and intentional magic, and the fact that her grandfather is a faith healer. She's his apprentice, and while he teaches her how to make potions, he also gently reminds her that magic can't force people to be things that they're not, and shouldn't be the answer for everything. We also see why Claudine gets to Jolina so much: the loss of her grandmother triggered her family's move to help her grandfather, and her mother works for Claudine's family-owned resort. Jolina fears for her mother's job and doesn't want her parents worrying about her, so she doesn't even mention the bullying. Every child that was ever bullied will understand this feeling, and the hopeless dread when having to see their bully every day.

Jolina acts like many other eleven-year-old girls would when faced with a rich girl trying to be her friend. This definitely doesn't jive with the spirit of magic that she used to make the love potion. I understand the impulse, and we get discussions on the concepts of sagip, an animal saving you from an illness or bad fate, as well as balik, the evil that comes as a result of magic gone awry. There are many facets of Filipino culture here, from the food and language, as well as the universal concerns of jealousy, insecurity, and the need for friends. I felt for Jolina's struggles, and even for Claudine when we learn more about her story. The ending left me in tears and is so well done. It's a beautiful story, with a great message for all middle-grade readers as well as the adults in their lives.

Buy Sugar and Spite at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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